There are two main types: airless and high volume, low pressure (HVLP). Ranging from small handhelds to large units suited to bigger projects and professional work, airless sprayers use a pump to bring the paint to high pressure before spraying. They are good at delivering high volumes of paint and, depending on the tips used, can be suitable for projects small and large, including house and fence painting. Daniel Campbell of Wagner advises that airless units can generate some overspray so are better suited to outdoors or empty rooms.
HVLP ones use pressurised air to atomise the paint as it sprays onto the surface. The low pressure makes them easier to use and allows for more accurate work. “HVLP technology is better suited to projects where a finer finish might be required, such as trims, furniture and the like,” says Daniel.
Before you buy, think about all your likely uses for a sprayer, including the types of paint or surface treatments you may wish to apply. Most home owners will only be using acrylic (water-based) paints, but in case you need to apply oil-based paints, choose a sprayer that suits, or one that has optional heads you can buy later as extras.
Also consider paint dilution needs. A sprayer that allows you to use undiluted paint will save a lot of messing around and also ensures consistency in spray coverage. Most current models will use undiluted paint, but check the specs before buying.
There are no prep shortcuts: everything you don't want painted must be covered. Indoors, move furniture out or into the middle of the room and cover with drop cloths. Use painter's tape and masking film to cover windows, floors and part of the ceiling. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling paint particles.
First practise on some cardboard to get a feel for the sprayer. “The sprayer should be kept around 20cm from the surface and should always remain straight at a right angle to the wall,” explains Daniel. “Work systematically up and down as you move the spray gun left to right. Move at a steady pace to maintain a smooth, even finish.”
For large surfaces, especially previously unpainted ones, reverse the movements on the second coat. To avoid excess paint at the beginning or end of a sweep, “Have the sprayer moving before you pull the trigger and release the trigger while still moving,” says Daniel.
When spray painting, it's very important to use safety equipment: a respirator, safety glasses to protect your eyes, and a pair of gloves – thin latex disposables are fine – to protect the skin on your hands.
Accessories can expand the capabilities of your paint sprayer. Available ones will vary with each model, so balance your needs with the potential functionality before you buy.
Extension poles: Attaching to the tip end of your sprayer, extension poles have their own tip so you can extend your painting reach into tricky spots.
Flexible extension: You can bend these short extensions to point in the required direction, making it easier to paint surfaces such as decking.
Roller arms: Best for times when you want a roller finish. The trigger controls an internal feed to distribute paint across the roller.
Tips and filters: Tips regulate the paint flow and its spread. A rough rule of thumb is, the smaller the hole, the thinner the paint. If you plan to use thick and thin paints, and paint on a range of surfaces, you may need to buy a few different tips. Tips must be matched to the correct filters.
In the simplest sense, all paint sprayers do exactly the same thing: here are the basic components most have in common.
Filters: Critical to ensure material doesn't block the spray nozzles or end up on your surface. The filter position, size and number will vary with the unit. There will most often be a coarse strainer on the paint pick-up end and a fine filter in the hand unit.
Hose: Usually on larger units that pick up paint from the tin and some HVLPs, these move paint from pumping unit to the spray gun. Self-contained handhelds only have a power cord. Some units have an on-sprayer reservoir and an air hose.
Pump: Every sprayer has a pump. Depending on the type of machine, the pump will either compress air to mix with and project the paint, or create compression to spray the paint at pressure.
Spray gun: The type of spray gun will vary based on the type of machine. They will, however, all have a comfortable handgrip, a trigger for activating paint flow and, on the business side, a nozzle.
Reservoir: This is where the liquid paint is held. On smaller handheld devices it will be a screw-on container integrated into the hand unit. Larger and professional sprayers will uptake directly from a paint tin via a tube or hose, often known as ‘direct feed'.
Tip: The type of tip determines spray patterns and paint volume. Some are adjustable, others need to be swapped out to change spray patterns. Some systems have separate guns or spray-heads with tips for different types of spraying.
Intake/uptake tube: On smaller devices this will be part of the hand unit. On larger machines it will generally be on the underside of the unit. It may be a fixed pipe or a pipe on the end of a short hose.
Check out your local Bunnings to view our full range. Whilst you're there, speak to one of our experts for some more painting tips.
Photo credit: Cath Muscat